Legal Health Checks
In some workplaces legal health checks are required in order to ensure that the employee is fit to carry out their job. These checks are usually carried out prior to their employment beginning, and are minimally invasive. In other cases, it is necessary to carry out periodic health checks in order to make sure the employee is fit to continue working. This is particularly important in jobs that rely on an employee having great eyesight. While there are some legal health checks that exist, there are also laws in place to make sure that these checks are not carried out too often. As a result, a balance can be struck between safety and maintaining the employee's privacy.
Health Checks Before Employment Commences
While the majority of jobs do not require you to undergo a health check, there are some environments where this is necessary to maintain the safety of employees and those they are working with. Take the NHS, for example; they perform occupational health checks on each of their employees. These checks usually include assessing the vaccinations the employee has had, immunity they have built from childhood illnesses like chickenpox, and a simple health assessment. This check is important when it comes to making sure the employee does not contract and spread illnesses. By doing this, it is possible to make sure patients and employees are kept as safe as possible. In addition to these checks applying to NHS employees, they also apply to healthcare students.
These checks are not exclusive to the NHS. There are other workplaces that use screening processes to guarantee the safety of employees. These include the police force, the fire service, the army, and manually demanding jobs, such as working on an oil rig. The nature of each check varies according to each place.
Legal Health Checks During Employment
It is not often the case that an employer can perform a legal health check on their employee. An employee's health is largely considered to be private. This means there must be justifiable reasons for asking somebody to undergo a health check in the workplace. The health checks that employers can undertake in the workplace are known as health surveillance measures.
Health surveillance measures are used in environments where employees are likely to injure themselves. In addition to this, they are used in occupations where the safety of others relies on the employee being fit enough to perform their job. In the case of the former, screening is used in hazardous environments. For example, laboratory work involving chemicals comes with the risk of chemical burns. While some of these burns are obvious straight away, others are not so noticeable and will build up to something more serious over time. As such, it is necessary to engage in health surveillance to make sure that an employee does not become injured. These health surveillance measures are usually introduced following a risk assessment that demonstrates factors that could be hazardous to an employee's health.
In contrast, checks designed to make sure an employee is safe to work often involve eyesight and hearing. For example, a bus driver may have to periodically prove that their vision is good enough for them to be driving a large vehicle. These checks are undertaken on a regular basis, and will have been agreed in the employee's contract before they started working for the employer in question.
Laws Designed to Protect Employees
Under the European Human Rights Act, all individuals living and working in an EU member state are entitled to a certain degree of privacy. As such, employees cannot be subjected to health checks unfairly. This right extends from the interview and application process, through to the point when employment is terminated.
When you are being interviewed for a position, you cannot be asked about your health unfairly. This includes asking an individual if they suffer from a mental health condition, or a disability. Doing this is a breach of disability discrimination law, and could be seen as a sign of that particular employer engaging in unfair screening practices when hiring new employees. Similarly, employers are not allowed to ask about anybody's fertility status, whether they are pregnant, and what their future plans for having children are; doing this is a breech of equality laws.
In terms of health checks while in employment, an employer must be able to justify their reason for checking. Whether or not certain checks can be used varies between each job. For example, while the police force may be able to screen for drugs periodically, a hair dresser may not. The checks being performed must be relevant to the workplace that the employee is working within. Forcing an employee to undergo a health check when it is not relevant to where they work is a breach of their privacy.